Naperville's City Council is eyeing a plan that could increase residential electric rates 6% come May, three times the anticipated 2% increase.
Despite agreeing an increase was needed at their latest workshop, council still voiced concern.
In 2012, the city-owned utility had $16 million on hand, but in May of last year that dropped to $5 million short of the $11.2 million city policy requires it to have in reserves.
"We already had a problem 10 months ago, why are we just looking at this now?" said Councilman Doug Krause.
The city buys its power from the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, or IMEA, of which it's a stockholder.
Officials credited the troubles to mild temperatures, higher than expected market prices, and one of IMEA's investments, the Prairie State Coal Plant going $1 billion over their construction budget.
That left Naperville, the biggest customer, to foot about $50 million of that bill; a burden that could fall to the residents, a decision council agreed was necessary, but difficult.
"This is the least painful for the residents and it continues to keep pressure, where it should be, on the expense side," said Councilman Steve Chirico. "It shows some improvements in our cash position, but we aren't solving the problems on the backs of the rate-payers."
"This whole thing just has me completely frustrated," said Councilman Robert Fieseler.
If approved, the average residential user who now pays $92.79 a month will pay $97.69 come May first, and $103.75 next spring.
Even with the increases, Naperville's residential rates will still be lower than ComEd.
In the meantime the Public Utilities Department made cuts of their own, doing away with $7.6 million in operational and capital costs over the next two years.
Despite the problems the city faces, City Manager Doug Krieger says they stand behind the decision to go with IMEA.
"It was a long-term decision, it wasn't looking at a five year horizon or even a 10 year horizon," said Krieger. It was looking out 20 to 25 years to find a way to hedge significant volatility."
The proposal will now go to the Public Utilities Advisory Board and then back to the council who will do a first reading at their March 18 meeting.
The city is looking for your feedback on the proposed rate increases; they will be hosting an open house March 6, from 4-7 p.m. at the Municipal Center.